Tribune Web Desk
Chandigarh, May 30
An international team of scientists has confirmed a planet the size of the earth around the closest star in our solar system, Proxima Centauri.
According to a newspaper published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the planet—called ‘Proxima b’—has a mass of 1.17 earths and is located in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri.
Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, much smaller and cooler than the sun, its habitable zone or Goldilocks zone — neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist — is very close to the star. ‘Proxima b’ orbits about 20 times closer to its star than earth does to the sun, and a year on the planet is just over 11 earth days long.
It is believed this planet could be “likely” to be able to support alien life forms.
The new measurement indicates that ‘Proxima b’ is even more like our home planet, at least in size, than previous observations led scientists to think. The first indication of the planet’s existence was in 2013 by Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire from archival observation data, with continued research following in 2016, said a report by the Independent.
The research team studied ‘Proxima b’ using the Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations, or ESPRESSO for short.
ESPRESSO is a Swiss spectrograph that is currently mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile. Spectrographs observe objects and split the light coming from those objects into the wavelengths that make it up so that researchers can study the object in closer detail.
Proxima Centauri is approximately 4.2 light-years from the Sun, but Nasa estimates it would take approximately 73,000 years for us to reach the planet unless new technologies are developed.
Ionic propulsion, nuclear thermal propulsion, nuclear pulse propulsion, fusion rockets, and laser sails have all been considered as methods to travel to the planet.
“We were already very happy with the performance of HARPS, which has been responsible for discovering hundreds of exoplanets over the last 17 years,” said Francesco Pepe, a professor in the Astronomy Department in UNIGE’s Faculty of Science in a statement.
“We’re really pleased that ESPRESSO can produce even better measurements, and it’s gratifying and just reward for the teamwork lasting nearly 10 years.”
Although ‘Proxima b’ is about 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, it receives comparable amounts of energy. If there is the liquid form on the planet, it could harbour life, but researchers said there is still much to be done before that can be confirmed.
Alejandro Suarez Mascareño, the article’s main author, said: “Confirming the existence of Proxima b was an important task, and it’s one of the most interesting planets known in the solar neighbourhood.”
“Is there an atmosphere that protects the planet from these deadly rays?” said Christophe Lovis, a researcher in the University of Geneva’s Astronomy Department, “and if this atmosphere exists, does it contain the chemical elements that promote the development of life?”
It is also possible that there could be a second planet orbiting the star, as the research team found evidence of a second signal in the data – but was unable to determine its origins.
“If the signal was planetary in origin, this potential other planet accompanying Proxima b would have a mass less than one third of the mass of the Earth. It would then be the smallest planet ever measured using the radial velocity method,” said Professor Pepe.
NASA's Rover Is Taking a Tree-Like Device That Converts CO2 Into Oxygen to Mars – ScienceAlert
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 30 July, carrying a host of cutting-edge technology including high-definition video equipment and the first interplanetary helicopter.
Many of the tools are designed as experimental steps toward human exploration of the red planet. Crucially, Perseverance is equipped with a device called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE: an attempt to produce oxygen on a planet where it makes up less than 0.2 percent of the atmosphere.
Oxygen is a cumbersome payload on space missions. It takes up a lot of room, and it’s very unlikely that astronauts could bring enough of it to Mars for humans to breathe there, let alone to fuel spaceships for the long journey home.
That’s the problem MOXIE is looking to solve. The car-battery-sized robot is a roughly 1 percent scale model of the device scientists hope to one day send to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.
Like a tree, MOXIE works by taking in carbon dioxide, though it’s designed specifically for the thin Martian atmosphere. It then electrochemically splits the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and combines the oxygen molecules into O2.
It analyses the O2 for purity, shooting for about 99.6 percent O2. Then it releases both the breathable oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet’s atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen produced in tanks for eventual use by humans and rockets.
The toxicity of the carbon monoxide produced isn’t a worry, according to Michael Hecht, a principal investigator for MOXIE. The gas reenters the Martian atmosphere but won’t alter it very much.
“If you release the carbon monoxide into the Mars atmosphere, eventually it will combine with a very small amount of residual oxygen that’s there and turn back into carbon dioxide,” Hecht previously told Business Insider.
For that reason, the carbon monoxide also wouldn’t hinder a potential biosphere on Mars – a closed, engineered environment where Earthly life could thrive.
Because MOXIE is a small proof-of-concept experiment, it won’t produce much oxygen – if all goes well, it should be producing about 10 grams per hour, which is roughly the amount of oxygen in 1.2 cubic feet of Earth air. For context, humans need about 19 cubic feet of air per day.
MOXIE will test its capabilities by producing oxygen in one-hour increments intermittently throughout the duration of Perseverance’s mission, according to NASA. The device should start working soon after the rover lands on 18 February 2021.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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NASA drops racially charged nicknames of celestial bodies – CTV News
Grocery store items, pro sports teams, and country music bands have all removed racially insensitive names.
Now, NASA is adding celestial bodies to the list that includes Aunt Jemima, the Washington Football Team and hitmakers The Chicks and Lady A.
“Eskimo Nebula” and “Siamese Twins Galaxy” are out, for example.
“Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname ‘the Horsehead Nebula’ invokes its appearance,” NASA said in a release this week. “But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.”
NASA is examining its use of phrases for planets, galaxies and other cosmic objects “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The space agency says it “will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, said, “Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”
In June, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it was dropping the brand “Eskimo Pie” after a century. The word is commonly used in Alaska to refer to Inuit and Yupik people, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska. “This name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat.'” People of Canada and Greenland prefer other names.
“Siamese twins” is an antiquated expression for conjoined twins, based on brothers from Siam (now Thailand) who were used as sideshow freaks in the 19th century.
The renaming trend followed worldwide protests against racism and police brutality after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police.
NASA Astronaut to Take Questions from Girl Scouts – Net Newsledger
Girl Scouts from across the nation will pose questions next week to NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy aboard the International Space Station. The educational downlink event will air live at 10:55 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 11, on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Cassidy will answer prerecorded questions selected from the 1.7 million girls who are members of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Girl Scouts works to provide girls in grades K-12 with engaging opportunities that increase their interest in STEM, including space science badges, training, and events that inspire them to explore space science.
Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Space Network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).
For nearly 20 years, astronauts have continuously lived and work on the space station, testing technologies, performing science and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. Through NASA’s Artemis program, the agency will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024, with eventual human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.
Follow America’s Moon to Mars exploration at:
Follow NASA astronauts on social media at:
See videos and lesson plans highlighting research on the International Space Station at:
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